Fu Manchu

Fu Manchu, a caricature,

the Chinese, sinister,

popularized in Hollywood,

spread to all neighborhoods.

 

The Chinese came,

in the 1840’s,

looking for gold,

mocked by society,

Whites said, “Oh, so sorry!” (Chinese accent)

 

Built the railroads,

treacherous work,

The Transcontinental,

You should be thankful!

 

You wouldn’t know it,

From your history books,

the Chinese denied,

A picture beside the finished work.

 

They worked for low wages,

Didn’t even make the front pages,

when 50 were killed,

Rock Springs Massacre,

letting us know,

racism was fo’ sho.

 

Hate became official,

Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882,

driven from the mines,

with no where to go,

banded together,

settled in San Francisco.

 

Unlike what you think,

Chinatowns were started,

not intentionally,

but out of necessity.

 

They worked long and hard,

risking limb and life,

only to hear scorn and taunts,

“Get away from us Whites!”

 

Settled in cities,

 building Chinese communities,

protect themselves physically,

preserve themselves culturally.

 

With a ban on immigration,

Chinese families not to be,

Either died single,

or returned home across the Pacific Sea.

 

By 1943,

Chinese Exclusion Act lifted,

By then,

Chinese mostly decimated.

 

Needing more workers,

The U.S. agreed,

It’s time for more Asians,

This time let’s try the Japanese.

 

They were welcomed to work,

Under the broiling sun,

picking Pineapples, cutting sugar cane,

you call that fun?

 

Unlike the Chinese,

The U.S. was gracious,

Letting “picture brides” enter,

 

Families flourished for the Japanese,

quiet, deferential, respect for authority,

not much commotion,

until the, “Day of Infamy!”

 

December 7, 1941,

Kamikazes came,

dropping bomb after bomb,

enough to send America to war,

whipped into a frenzy,

racial hatred restored.

 

Executive Order 9066,

signed by Roosevelt,

to be the quick fix.

 

Send the Japs,

child and all,

to Internment camps,

even in Arkansas.

 

Round them up,

get them there,

they’re not to be trusted,

with their crew-cut hair.

 

Interned, betrayed by America,

A country they called home,

frightened, fearful, and all alone.

 

To prove their loyalty,

men signed up to fight,

The 442nd was like the Blacks of Tuskegee,

an all Japanese-American Combat Force,

helping America win the war.

 

But back at home,

racism endured,

Trusting American Asians,

still the bigger battle,

tensions remained very unsettled.

 

The Japanese by nature,

calm and collected,

didn’t say much,

moved on and tried to forget it.

 

Growing up I asked them, “What happened?!”,

But no one shared their stories,

embarrassed, ashamed, questions deflected,

“We don’t want any glory”

 

But it’s not about glory,

It’s about history,

If we don’t share it,

The cliché says we’re doomed to repeat it.

 

Eventually,

by turn of the century,

an official apology,

financial reparations,

for Japanese racial separations.

 

Things have come a long way,

In racial harmony,

But ignorance is not bliss,

And we must ask ourselves this,

Why it’s so hard to co-exist?

 

Sam Louie, MA, LMHC

Psychotherapist | Diversity Speaker

www.samlouiespeaks.com